Recent comments

  • COMMENT: Taxes and Their Role in Our Society   50 weeks 1 day ago

    The first major cut to progressive taxation that I was aware of happened over 40 years ago when Justin Trudeau's father was PM. Then, as now, it was sold with the claim that the rich would use their increased wealth to create jobs. Now we can only fantasize about having unemployment rates as low as they were then. Within a couple of years the unemployment rate began a rise that still continues despite many redefinitions of "unemployment" to make the number appear smaller.

    The notion of job creation by the rich is even more absurd in the current free-trade world when so much money is invested in production facilities in slave-wage economies at the expense of first world manufacturing jobs.

    Other absurd premises of the tax-cut true believers are:

    Taxation takes money out of the economy. In reality, the government spends every cent it gets (and more--but that's another problem) and most of it goes into the domestic economy. In fact, despite grotesque military expenditures, a higher percentage of public-sector spending goes into the domestic economy than private-sector spending.

    Governments can not create jobs. This would seem  too absurd to mention except that this riding elected and re-elected an MP who made that very claim. When asked where he imagined the public-sector jobs he proposed to destroy came from he gave a political non-answer.

    The private sector is inherently highly efficient and the public sector is  inherently bureauocracy-bound and incompetent. Anybody who has worked for a large corporation should see the absurdity of this claim. In fact, bureauocracy is more a function of size than of sector. As corporations get bigger they get increasingly bureauocratic. If we were to elect people who were driven more by the notion of public service rather than by ideology they could make government less bureauocratic. Though politicians and public servants can be obscenely overpaid the money they extract from the enterprise is miniscule compared to corporate executive wages.

    Government should be run like a business. This is an extension of the notion that government is inherently inefficient. Government is not a business. It exists (or should exist) to serve the public--not to make a profit. Businesses cut people loose when they can no longer contribute to profit. Decent governments provide for people's needs when they are too young or too old or too ill or too handicapped to be productive.

    If the rich are made richer their spending will trickle down to the rest of us. There is a trickle down. there is also a flow upwards. The first world has plenty of evidence that the whole society prospers when the poor have a disposable income. The third world shows us that it does not work the other way around.

    The free market is very good at providing material goods for people with disposable incomes. It is very bad at providing for the needs of people without money. A civilized society must tax to provide for peoples' needs.

    Why should not those who benefit the most from the prosperity that a large public sector provides pay a proportionately larger share of the taxes necessary to finance the public sector?

    Here's an equation that the corporate media never tell you about:

    Tax cuts equals health health care cuts --and education cuts and infrastructure-funding cuts, and protective regulation cuts and cuts to a wide range of  other public services that the private sector has no interest in providing.

  • COMMENT: The AGLG report. Now what?   50 weeks 1 day ago

    We all know by now (or should know) that Rossland Council went off the rails the day Victor Kumar was hired as CAO and insisted that Council pass the Delegation Bylaw which delegated to this newcomer to Rossland all the powers that Council possibly could delegate--along with the right to exercise those powers without oversight by Council. This included the power to let contracts, the power to approve development permit applications, the power to commit you the taxpayers to paying ridiculously high staff salaries, and more.  That is history--the history of a Council that abbrogated its oversight responsibilities with predictable results in terms of corruption and other forms of wasteful expenditures.

    Here is a bit more history that you may not know: More than a year ago, when citizens complained in a public meeting about this terrible bylaw, Mayor Granstrom said, and I quote, BYLAWS CAN BE CHANGED.  In a subsequent e-mail to me, he assured me that he was working to that end. I also received an e-mail from Councilor Fisher who said he had read that by-law and IN NO WAY SHOULD IT BE ALLOWED TO STAND.  Then there is Councilor Moore who, as far back as January 2013 was trying to get that bylaw rescinded. So there are three people on Council, one of them being the mayor, who committed to reclaiming the astonishing near-total power that a previous council had delegated to the CAO.

    Yet the Delegation Bylaw still stands. The present CAO (hired by Kumar) has exactly the same power to do pretty much as she pleases as Kumar had when he was in that position. THAT is current reality.  As long as this bylaw remains in place, it is not your elected Council but the present CAO who has the power to make the criticial decisions mentioned above (and many others.)  One power Council does retain is the power to eliminate or modify the Delegation Bylaw. But that, it seems, is something it is not going to do unless a substantial majority of Rosslanders demand it. 

    As in all wannabe democracies, what happens next depends not on what THEY decide to do about this problem,  but on what we-the-people decide to do about it. If we do nothing, then that is what we can expect to happen: nothing.

     

    
    

     

    I

  • CONTEST: Sponsored by Canadoodle Australian Labradoodles   50 weeks 2 days ago

    Canadoodle Australian Labradoodles is shining bright with this months contest!! 

  • LETTER: Water metres not fiscally responsible   50 weeks 2 days ago

    This is an excellent letter, Donna!  I hope you've sent it to the Grand Forks Gazette.

  • Tayla Scott joins Source/Champion team   50 weeks 2 days ago

    Welcome, Tayla! Great to have you on board...

  • COMMENT: Taxes and Their Role in Our Society   50 weeks 2 days ago

    I'm puzzled by the argument that an opposition MP is responsible  for the economic conditions in his riding "on his watch." If economic and taxation policy is set by the Conservative government of the day, shouldn't the benefits of that policy apply to all Canadians in all regions, regardless of the affiliation of the MP? What powers does Atamanenko have as an oposition MP that would allow him to screw over our riding, which should otherwise be basking in the economic glory that cuts to corporate taxes and social programs bring?

     

  • COMMENT: Taxes and Their Role in Our Society   50 weeks 3 days ago

    Personally, viirga, I don't know many of these 'idle' people you mention here. The 'lazy welfare bum' living large on the sweat of others' brows is a myth of right wing media. Poverty isn't a choice for most disadvantaged people--it's something that's been thrust upon them by troubled backgrounds, bad luck or a general lack of well-paying work in society (you'd think Stephen Harper would have managed to create many fine, well-paying jobs after 7 years in office with almost absolute power and a philosophy very much like yours...instead the poor keep getting poorer and the rich keep getting richer for some reason....hmmm).

    All research shows that human happiness is greater across the board in societies that take care of the weakest among them. It's also true that in 'pull yourself up by your own bootstraps' societies, human suffering...and particularly child suffering and domestic violence...are much greater. This is objective fact, not political posturing.

    If your philosophy of low taxation and high standards of living actually works, please name one country that has successfully implemented it.  Unfortunately, if you look into this, you'll find that, time and time again, the countries rated 'best to live in' by the UN and other bodies are socialist nations like Sweden or even...Canada (historically, though Harper is doing his best to fix this).

  • COMMENT: Taxes and Their Role in Our Society   50 weeks 4 days ago

    Ratepayers are holding the fort for those too Idle to Care. Easy to call for more tax when you don't contribute. 

    Go ahead double the corporate tax and you'll find you raise no where near the wealth that small increases in personal income raises. Creating jobs raises more tax than any other way. 

    Jobs then lead to value-added consumer taxes; and then those families, supported by employment, buy homes and are further taxed. These are ratepayers that directly invest in communities. These ignored and unsung local heroes are the backbone of local community.

    This MP is a blackhole to the Kootenays and must accept responsibility for the failure of the local economy and the high poverty rate on his watch.

     

  • COMMENT: Taxes and Their Role in Our Society   50 weeks 4 days ago

    It is not enough to compare tax rates alone. There are two sources to money spent by governments: taxes and debt.

    Comparing Sweden's tax rate to Canada's gives a better picture.

    Public debt as a percentage of GDP (2012):

    - Canada 84.1%, Sweden 38.6%.

    Gross Government Debt as a percentage of GDP (2012):

    - Canada 85.6%, Sweden 38.0%.

    Net Government Debt as a percentage of GDP (2012):

    - Canada 34.5%, Sweden -17.6%.

    The difference between the fiscal policies of the two countries is that one believes in buy now, pay later while the other believes in pay as you go.

    Who benefits from interest paid on government debt? Those who have the money to invest in it. Who loses? Those whose services are cut to pay the interest.

    The philosophical difference between the fiscal policies of Canada and Sweden is that here in Canada we don't give a hoot about what our grandchildren. The present is ours to enjoy, the future is their problem.

     

  • COMMENT: Taxes and Their Role in Our Society   50 weeks 4 days ago

    Nothing wrong with paying taxes the problem is with the idiots in government that abuse the trust that tax payers place in them. Sweden is an example of GOOD GOVERNMENT in action. It does not work that way here because of kick backs for favors received. Why is it that we keep electing those who are financed by the 1%????

  • PUBLIC MEETING: What sort of qualities do we need in a City Councillor?   50 weeks 5 days ago

    I think this series of gatherings to explore ideas of leadership and the attributes of a successful council and creative governance is a wonderful idea! Many thanks to Adrian and Foment West Kootenays for instigating it. We are such a small community, its easy to make a real difference for anyone  willing to make the effort. I would love to attend but I am currently out of town. I hope to make the next one. Thanks again to the organizers.

    km

  • PUBLIC MEETING: What sort of qualities do we need in a City Councillor?   50 weeks 6 days ago

    Here are a few thoughts from individuals who have given much thought to what governing in a democratic manner is all about.

    Jeremy Rifkin (author, among other books, of The End of Work):

    Now, however, that the commercial and public sectors are no longer capable of securing some of the fundamental needs of the people, the public has little choice but to begin looking out for itself, once again, by reestablishing viable communities as a buffer against both the impersonal forces of the global market and increasingly weak and incompetent central governing authorities.

    Jean Vanier (author, among other books, of Becoming Human):

    If history teaches us nothing else, it is that power is borrowed. At best, power is something granted not something taken. Those who have power need the gifts of discernment and judgment, because if we recognize the temporary nature of power, then equally, we need to recognize what in the activity of dissent is valuable.

    Philip Resnick (author, among other books, of Twenty-First Century Democracy):

    To reduce democracy to a set of procedural arrangements involving the choice of elected representatives and officials to whom decision-making power is surrendered for a specific term is a very serious abdication of its participatory underpinnings.

    If you start out reflecting and discussing thoughts such as these, you may come to realize that the challenge for the next election is not so much who to vote for, but how, by what means, and to what degree citizens should be engaged in the governance of their own community AFTER the election. 

  • OPEN LETTER: The City's 'trash talkin' swagger' in the face of AGLG report is shameful   51 weeks 16 hours ago

    What really puzzles me is why city council would reject the suggestion to create a hiring committee ?  I am surprised that a hiring commitee is not a formal procedure of city councils throughout  the province. 

    These last few years, I have perceived the hiring process for city staff to be anything but transparent, and frankly, the track record for the last CAOs is pretty bleak, as supported by the recently released AGLG report.

    As a citizen of Rossland, I am questionning the hiring process of city staff. I agree that contracts should be reviewed by a qualified, unbiased lawyer, and put in place prior to the next round of hiring.  The process should be transparent and overseen by a hiring committee.

  • OPEN LETTER: The City's 'trash talkin' swagger' in the face of AGLG report is shameful   51 weeks 19 hours ago

    Response to Cary Fisher

    I appreciate that Councillor Fisher has communicated his thoughts publicly. I believe this Council has not done enough of that over this term. I would like to see more public engagement. Council is not only made stronger by communication with the people, it is the only way we can represent them.  I agree that everyone on Council cares deeply for the community and wants to do the right thing, however our methods may differ.

    I do take issue with Councillor Fisher’s suggestion that the mayor and I have angst, personal tensions or a personality conflict. I believe that we differ fundamentally in matters of philosophy and leadership style. To base these differences on personality is to miss the point; it is an excuse for Council’s lack of critical thinking and its reluctance to pursue independent analyses of the issues that came before us.

    Some of the examples I am giving here are drawn from in camera meeting experiences; those meetings that were closed to the public. I believe the community should not have to rely on rumors to be able to evaluate the performance of the Council it has elected.  Plus all these issues are now out in the open anyway.

    In 2011 I strongly argued against the proposal put forth by the CAO and the Mayor for a year-round pool facility. The CAO had not been directed by Council to apply for that project.  There were reasonable recreational needs that would have better matched the grant criteria than a $5m pool, especially considering the $400k suggested limit. (For example: a skate park, modest upgrades to our existing pool or replacing the arena floor). This was not a personality conflict; it was about the manner in which accountable decisions are made for the community.  This was not a Council of novices; four members of that Council (Granstrom, Wallace, Spearn and myself) had at least one term of prior experience.

    In the fall of 2011 when irregularities with the arena project came to my attention, I asked questions of the Mayor and the CAO, and called for an investigation. I got stonewalled and was told nothing was wrong. After the new Council was elected I tried again. Council ignored my request for an investigation when the Mayor, the CAO and the Deputy CAO downplayed the issue.

    Having exhausted normal channels, I went to the municipal auditor with my concerns. Led by the Mayor and the CAO I was roundly criticized by a number of council members for having done so. I considered it to be not only my right, but my obligation as a Councillor to contact the municipal auditor when faced with a concern as serious as the problems with the arena. What else is a Council member with a sense of responsibility to do in such circumstances? Just forget it and turn the page? The municipal auditor identified issues of concern with the arena project, but there was no investigation or action on the part of Council. What did draw a lot of ire was the concern of Rossland Council having a “rogue councillor” in its midst. I was accused of being critical of staff, of nitpicking, of damaging staff morale, of being another Laurie Charlton. The substance of our disagreement was not my personality it was a failure of leadership, a failure of Council to look after the interests of the community.

    In the summer of 2012 I argued that we needed an open and transparent hiring process to replace the outgoing CAO. Council rejected my suggestion to create a hiring committee. What Council accepted instead was one candidate essentially forced on us – take it or leave it. Council turned down my suggestion to have the draft contract reviewed by a lawyer. I protested over some of the more egregious provisions of the contract to no avail.  Some Councillors may have shared my concerns, but none would act against the Mayor and the CAO. Once again, the substance of our disagreement was not my personality; it was a failure of leadership, a failure of Council to look after the interests of the community.

    My concerns with that contract were such that I paid $3,500 (my own funds) for a legal review. I shared the results of that review with Council, hoping that this would motivate Council to make an effort to renegotiate, but instead I was roundly criticized for being a “rogue Councillor.” There was talk of wanting to censure me, fine me, prohibit me from attending future in camera meetings.  None of these options was remotely legitimate because I had done nothing wrong. And yet again,  the substance of our disagreement was not  my personality; it was a failure to look after the interests of the community.

    In January 2013, after the public outcry over the arena issues, Council finally decided to reach out to the new Auditor General for Local Government. I am fully convinced that without public pressure this would never have happened. That was a busy spring with motions passed to review the Delegation Bylaw, to review the Procurement bylaw, and to get reports on the arena. To date, none of those reviews have happened. The arena reports were conducted by outside experts, but Council did not see them until the fall, and no staff report was included.

    At an in camera meeting in July of 2013 I was subjected to a multipage diatribe lecture by [current CAO Cecile Arnott]. I was accused of bullying and berating staff.  The CAO demanded that I stop immediately. I agreed that I was persistent in my requests for information on the subject of the reviews Council had committed to undertake, on final figures for the Columbia Washington project and for an updated Task List (A list representing progress on tasks Council had requested staff to undertake as well as other work they were doing). However, I disagreed with the CAO’s assessment of my behavior. I was not bullying, I was only asking for work that staff had previously been directed to complete. When I asked the CAO for a copy of the complaints she had brought to Council about my behaviour, she told me she destroyed it. The mayor and council were silent. The substance of our disagreement, yet again, was not my personality, it is a failure of leadership. The “tone at the top” is important: Council is expected to  “respect our professional staff and don’t ask uncomfortable questions or you to will be singled out as a problem.”

    Lastly, a couple other items that caught my eye in Councillor Fisher’s comments: I had been asking for a complete accounting of the Columbia-Washington project since August of 2012, not just the engineering. As for problems being addressed in our Action Plan, yes we are moving on some things.  However, I suggest that we need to do more than move, we need regular updates and documentation of what improvements have been achieved. But considering that Council was only recently presented with two untendered, sole source contracts, there is evidently still plenty of room for improvement.  

    Finally, one bright light in recent months has been the hiring of our Acting CFO. Lois Hunter has been working hard to make sense of our financial department. I am confident that the AGLG’s report will serve as a catalyst for many improvements to our local governance- some will happen under this council and more will be done next term. As Councillor Fisher noted, these things take time but I would add, there is no room for complacency.

  • COMMENT: The AGLG report. Now what?   51 weeks 1 day ago

    The credentials of Mr. Kumar were supposedly vetted by the head-hunter that Council hired, at great expense, to find a new CAO.  It is unknown what vetting actually took place.

    Once Mr. Kumar was in place, and had convinced a majority of Council to adopt the delegation bylaw, a process began whereby most of the policies,  adopted by Council over the years to provide direction to the CAO (many crafted by Mr. Carel), were systematically repealed.  The delegation bylaw, the lack of policy direction provided, and the unwillingness of Council to question most things presented by Mr. Kumar all contributed to Mr. Kumar's almost total control of Council.

  • COMMENT: The AGLG report. Now what?   51 weeks 1 day ago

    Repealing the Delegation Bylaw would give Council a basis from which to review its hiring policies and management salaries.

    The place to start is to reflect on Community Charter section 147. Don't rush, take your time, think about what it says and means:

    [Council may, by bylaw] establish the position of chief administrative officer of the municipality, whose powers, duties and functions include the following:

    (a) overall management of the operations of the municipality;

    (b) ensuring that the policies, programs and other directions of the council are implemented;

    (c) advising and informing the council on the operation and affairs of the municipality.

    Remember that (a) without (b) and (c) is what got Rossland in trouble according to the AGLG report.

    A review of the CAO position and salary undertaken after the Delegation Bylaw is history should focus on section 147. The objective should be to restrict the CAO's powers, duties, and functions to those set out in sec. 147, with particular emphasis on (b) and (c), and to reduce the compensation package by an amount equal to the value of the repealed Delegation Bylaw powers .

    Good luck!

  • COMMENT: The AGLG report. Now what?   51 weeks 1 day ago

    It may sound churlish to bring this up yet again, but it's also true that Mr. Kumar was hired, as we understand it, without proper vetting. So this extremely generous gift of power was given to a man the council of the day didn't even check out properly. And, churlish though this also might also sound, his successor, Cecile Arnott, was chosen by Mr. Kumar himself. One very pressing need right now if we're all to begin to move forward in a positive direction is for council to adopt a proper hiring policy to make sure the hiring of the next CAO is the result of a fully-open and thorough process. A salary review for senior management also needs to be done. Currently, every woman, man, and child in the Mountain Kingdom gives close to $60 per year to Ms. Arnott!

    Petition anyone? Too bad direct democracy got repealed! Or is council finally ready to start fixing things? Hiring policies and salary reviews, it should be noted, are not radical moves. They are actually pretty mundane, sensible procedures.--ed.

  • The fight for Rose Schwarz continues with local benefit   51 weeks 1 day ago

    I never saw a Tick till I moved to Rock Creek. They are everywhere on my property, in my house and on us. It's a serious problem, thank you CLIMATE CHANGE.

  • OPEN LETTER: The City's 'trash talkin' swagger' in the face of AGLG report is shameful   51 weeks 2 days ago

    The blindsided comment is an interesting one. Councillor Spearn is right, Council has been blindsided. The responsibility for the blindsiding, however, rests with the Council itself. It is Council itself which did the blindsiding.

    It is the Council which adopted, and stubbornly holds on to the Delegation Bylaw without realiziing that, with that bylaw, it has de facto surrendered the responsibility to govern which it was elected to carry.

    Take a look at a paper I wrote 16 years ago:  http://www.npsnet.com/cdd/carrel.htm

    Here are a couple of paragraphs out of it:

    With all due respect, you are wrong when you assume that we have representative democracy in Canada, at the federal, provincial or municipal level. We live in a "responsible democracy", not a representative democracy – there is a difference. It is our proximity to the US and the cultural influence the US has on us that leads us to believe that we live in a representative democracy. "We the people" is a US constitutional phrase. Canada's Constitution recognizes governments, federal and provincial, not citizens.2 The Canadian parliamentary system is based on the philosophical concept of responsible government and is modeled on the British prototype. The existence of a legitimate government, in a formal sense, requires that a political party, either alone or in coalition with others, has the confidence or support of a majority of the members of parliament. The people are assumed to have a collective will, which is expressed through the election of governments with legislative majorities.3

    Responsible government has lost much of the legitimacy it once had. Information technology has created opportunities for abuse and, along with the passage of time, has transformed our responsible democracy into what David Marley calls a "ritualistic democracy." Our society has reached the point where cynicism and disdain are the only methods left for many citizens to cope with "politics as usual." The hypothesis of Rossland's Municipal Constitution is that citizens, voters and taxpayers, will take an interest in issues of substance, will seek to inform themselves about facts, and will debate the merits and the cost of public policy questions – provided their efforts can truly, honestly and effectively determine the decision, if and when citizens so choose.

    When a “responsible government” delegates all the powers the law allows it to delegate, what it is in fact delegating with the responsibility that goes with these powers. Delegated to whom? What are the Delegation Bylaws accountability provisions, and how do they function? With the Delegation Bylaw Council itself set the stage to be blindsided.

    Eventually, maybe, enough members of Rossland Council will come to realize the significance of the Delegation Bylaw. But who knows, maybe the citizens of Rossland may come to that realization first.

  • OPEN LETTER: The City's 'trash talkin' swagger' in the face of AGLG report is shameful   51 weeks 2 days ago

    Below is Councillor Jill Spearn's reply to Andrew Bennett's open letter, reprinted here with Ms. Spearn's permission. Below this is Mr. Bennett's reply to Ms. Spearn.

    Well, I guess I will cautiously reply to you, Andrew. Clearly you haven't been writing to Council for a while so it is good to hear your writer's voice, speaking forthright and passionately. So, I'm going to respond for myself, only, as I haven't talked to any of Council since you wrote this.

    Firstly we, as a Council invited the AGLG to Rossland when we were apprised of the misdoings of a few people who worked for the City. The process was received by both staff and Council, looking for a 'healthy' approach to firstly understanding how some things didn't 'jive'. It was never the intention of this Councillor to ever not 'seek to understand' the comings and goings of all of the projects and the expectations of financial management on behalf of the citizens, including ourselves. I was immensely surprised and felt blindsided by the problems we faced. I do however hold myself accountable for the decisions made at Council despite the enormous frustration and disappointment in a situation that was complicated and guarded. As to your disapproval with the Press release, I was somewhat puzzled by the final edition.

    We did discuss it briefly, we had a sharp timeline, set by the AGLG to get that out. I have said a number of times some people were defensive and unwilling to accept fault, protecting some past employees, for a list of reasons. I will finish by telling you that despite your obvious dissatisfaction, I feel more positive that the City of Rossland has learned, accepts the AGLG process, which was challenging, and can move forward, yes perhaps while licking wounds, to make this whole experience benefit everyone in Rossland, overall.

    ------------

    Andrew Bennett's reply to Ms. Spearn.

    ----------

    Thanks Jill, it is very good to hear your perspective.

    First, I am glad that council chose to invite the AGLG to Rossland, it was an excellent decision. As you know, at that time I had already been convinced from the available evidence—now much expanded and fully verified—that not only did some elements not "jive," but that some serious wrongdoing was afoot.

    At the same point in time, some on council—like the mayor—steadfastly denied any problem, and got bright red in the face and shouted at anyone who suggested otherwise.

    I am certain your intention all along was to seek to understand. I have always been impressed by your ability to adjust your point of view to accord with the best information you have on hand. This is a great strength. I wish more people would continually assess and reassess their position as circumstances and information change around them. Unfortunately, most people are unable to adapt and unwilling to contradict opinions that earlier they may have voiced with conviction. It's the old fable of the oak and the reed in a great wind...

    I do not accept that you were "blindsided." There was plenty of evidence, and those of us who chose to see the evidence for what it was, and accept it for what it is, we were not blindsided. Everyone else chose to be blind.

    Yes, it happens, blindness is a choice people make, and they do it every day on many issues. The reason is always the same—it is easier to accept a comfortable fiction than an uncomfortable truth...until the fiction crumbles. Unfortunately, council as a whole was happily coddled for far too long by the fictions spun by Mr Granstrom and Mr Kumar.

    From day one that I covered council I remember Coun. Stradling and Coun. Charlton being quite firm that there had been and were ongoing expenses in the arena project that had not been approved by council. I recall Coun. Stradling demanding accountability from city staff and getting none. Council was cowed on each occasion by Mr Granstrom and Mr Kumar. At the time, fresh on the scene, I did not recognize this as a pattern. Now I do.

    Given my limited understanding of how this council operates, I am not surprised at your puzzlement over the "final edition." Mr Granstrom seems more than happy to take it upon himself to speak as if he had the voice of council, even when it has not been given to him. And yes, as you imply, he is very much defensive and unwilling to accept fault, in practically every instance I can think of. That, in a nutshell, is his chief fault! "Democracy" means as much to this mayor as "balanced meeting facilitation," neither his strong suit...

    Much as it is the mayor's duty to keep the CAO in check, so it is council's duty to keep the mayor in check. His response to the AGLG's report in this press release—and for the record, opinions and comment do not qualify for press releases—was childish to the point of being brattish. He did a disservice to Rossland and should be roundly chastised for this solo mission, which for now I will assume it was.

    Finally, like you I am very pleased, overall, with the recent progress this report and the Action Plan suggest for Rossland. Certainly the arena project was not the first scandal, just as it was not the last. Before it the Ophir reservoir was plagued by many similar inconsistencies, and no doubt the history of unprofessionalism, cronyism, and lackadaisical management stretches back far before that.

    Like you, and given the long history of mismanagement that seems to have been the norm for Rossland, I agree that there has been important progress in recent months—at least conceptually. We still await news of genuine implementation this year. So yes, let's move on for everyone's benefit, and really learn from the errors of these ways. Such hope and optimism are fundamental to a long term solution.

    Thank you again for your candid response. I have always appreciated how you speak from the heart, where you genuinely strive to hold the best interests of our community and then act on what you believe. Thank you.

    Andrew

  • CONTEST: April 2014 -- Wildways Bike Tune-up   51 weeks 2 days ago

    Congratulations! The random number generator did pick you :)

  • OPEN LETTER: The City's 'trash talkin' swagger' in the face of AGLG report is shameful   51 weeks 2 days ago

    Adrian:

    I believe as a council we all support the AGLG Audit.  We requested it as a council and have responded with an Action plan.  It is also factual that Councillor Moore was the main proponent with regard to requesting the Audit..  I believe there are weakness in the AGLG process but after thoughtful reflection  any contrarian reply is not useful at this time.  The report points out fundamental weakness in oversight spanning more than one sitting term of council.  I believe that there is progress on the action plan already.  I can't comment on potential misconduct regarding the Jason Ward case because it is in court at the moment.

    However,  I can comment on the Columbia/Washington project.  This project again spans a couple councils and the reporting to council was not complete.  Councillor Moore did request on more than one occasion additional reporting regarding engineering.  From my perspective at the time their was a great deal of angst between Councillor Moore and Mayor Granstrom and the cities CAO.  Small town politics as it is causes people who I believe both have Rosslands best interests at heart to act and say things that cloud the real issue.  As of late I believe that Mayor Granstrom and Councillor Moore are both doing a much better job explaining their positions in a reasonable way.  While there are tensions council is far more productive now.  I will qualify that by saying we do have more work to do though.  A climate of distrust real or perceived creates a cloud for a new councillor.  I should have asked for more details on the engineering work myself prior to the construction contract being let.  For that I am deeply sorry.  I do believe now after the fact that Rossland got good value from the engineering.  I do not believe we were overcharged.  I do acknowledge that we should have had contracts approved by council.  As noted in the report from the AGLG our procurement policy was not followed.  This practice has been addressed and will continue to be addressed moving forward.

    There is much work to do but I strongly believe that the current council and Mayor are committed to getting this right.  Having said that I know that beating this issue up makes for great news and head lines.  Rossland City Council has had a history of making the news for negative things.  This is one of the reasons I ran for city council.  I thought I could attempt to bring a little peace making.  I also wanted to ensure we were looking forward at all the financial challenges in front of us.  I won't back down from a fight but I do choose to try and find solutions as a group.  There have been many times when it has not gone my way but I accept the will of council. 

    The City staff we have in place is also hard working and committed to make the changes necessary.  I specifically refer to our acting CAO and acting CFO.  Their names are Tracey Butler and Lois Hunter.  While the AGLG auditors were here in Rossland these two staff members worked tirelessly preparing documentation and answering questions.  At the same time they prepared our budget for the coming year.  Your readers should also be aware that we are without a CAO/CFO because she is on medical leave.  Under the circumstances I believe that Ms. Butler provides a solid history of the workings inside the city and Ms. Hunter provides solid financial accountability from experience in the private sector.  Ms. Hunter is a new member of the staff and was thrown into an untenable situation for which she has my gratitude and admiration. Rossland Tax payers are getting good value for money when it comes to these people.  I would be remise in not pointing out that all members of our staff currently at the City act in a professional manner and are providing good value.  This is a team that requires my support and I ask that the people of Rossland support and respect the work they are currently doing on our behalf.

    The AGLG provided answers and suggestions regarding the Procurement process at the City of Rossland.  It is a complete audit in this regard.  The City Council has provided an action plan with respect to the AGLG audit.  As a single councillor I am committed to implementing the action plan.  The proof of this will only be bourn in the coming days.  The only single issue I have concerns about with regard to the Auditor Generals comments are in regard to additional staff.  New staff or additional staff will not solve our issues.  Our issues around following policy.  It would have not delayed the Washington Columbia project at all if we had followed our existing procurement policy.  While this policy needs some work the fault is not in the policy itself but the implementation by council itself.  An increase in staff will only result in an increase in taxes.  I am not in favour of that suggestion.  We are a very small community with a residential tax base.  We are required to find creative solutions given our financial limitations. 

    Finally, I am not a career politician.  I ran because I was genuinely concerned about the future of Rossland and the greater region.  I ran because I saw constant controversy and a revolving door of staff members at upper management in the City.  This constant revolving has cost the City a tremendous amount of money.  I believed I could help.  I am hopeful that the AGLG report and the Action plan will assist us in getting to where we need to be.  I am sure this will not be a straight line of success.  We will likely make errors along the way but we are committed to improve for that I am certain.   I would request from the electorate of Rossland patience with this process.  If we are to be successful we will need the support of our citizens.  We know we must do better and with the support of the community we will.

    Sincerely,

    CaryFisher

    -----------

    Adrian's reply to Mr. Fisher

    ----------

    Thanks, Cary. Glad to run this thoughtful reply. I'd only like to say that, for my own part, I haven't been 'beating up' this issue. In fact, I take considerable personal offense at your implication that the Telegraph has been playing up these issues to make 'headlines'. To claim that our motivations are to benefit ourselves by making mountains out of molehills is character assassination that borders on the libellous. Lucky for you I'm not a litigious person (that's a joke). What you call 'beating up' the issue is us attempting to bring to light important information in the face of constant stonewalling from the City.

    I am not a career journalist and, like yourself, got involved in the Telegraph as a form of public service (I make less than you do as a councillor, if that matters, and don't aspire to make more) after the debacle of the golf course in the Red watershed. Like many, many Rosslanders I have been outraged by the lack of leadership and accountability displayed by City Hall since the Jason Ward Affair came to light (let alone the pool fiasco, etc). My own sincere view is that council has done an atrocious job of managing the problems that have come up and that such weakness in communication is very serious indeed in a democracy. The 'beating up' happened only when the problems began to crop up (some of which were only revealed due to Andrew Bennett's diligent reporting, along with the work of others like Kathy Moore and Laurie Charlton) and council closed ranks and refused to accept responsibility or clearly state their plans for resolving these issues.

    I'm sincerely sorry that you don't see the dangers inherent in such extremely poor communication. That said, as a taxpayer, I appreciate the apologies you make here.

    Adrian

     

    NOTE: This comment has been amended to fix an error. Mr. Fisher mistakenly referred to the 'Jason Moore' case in paragraph one when the case in question is, of course, concerned with 'Jason Ward'. Thanks.

  • OPEN LETTER: The City's 'trash talkin' swagger' in the face of AGLG report is shameful   51 weeks 2 days ago
    Yesterday, I posted a press release from the Union of BC Indian Chiefs as a comment to Andrew Bennett's open letter as an example of a press release about a tricky issue that is respectful, balanced, and conciliatory. It's also worth noting that this press release was signed by the people in power who either wrote it or were willing to go on record as endorsing its release. I can't understand why the City's recent press release wasn't signed by those on council or staff who wrote/agreed with its contents. I suggest you consider adopting a policy that all future press releases be signed by the appropriate parties.

    I know criticisms posted to the Telegraph must sound harsh to some of your ears (well, it IS harsh). I also know a few of you are proudly on record as refusing to engage views that differ significantly from your own as expressed in our paper, despite the fact that these stories are receiving reads in the thousands and comments are regularly made by respected and prominent citizens, thereby offering you a wide-open platform to engage your constituents. I must say I hope that those of you who refuse to engage views that differ from your own (and those of your friends) don't run for re-election, as people like that have no business being in public office. Cronyism is a danger in all small towns and only listening to one's friends is a dangerous way to go about public business. One could even argue that the whole Jason Ward mess has its roots in similar issues--insufficient oversight in a work environment where everybody knows everybody.

    No one in Rossland wants anything more from any of you than respectful, open communication and accountability.

    All of the misery that has come from this process has been a result of failures in these two essential areas, and the primary blame for this can be laid at the feet of Mr. Granstrom, as mayor. I don't know of anyone in town who would have looked at the Jason Ward Affair and not forgiven council and staff if they'd just fessed up to their errors and (sorry) incompetence in certain areas then pledged in very specific ways to get to the bottom of it and do things differently in the future. We all know this is a big job for largely-untrained people. It could have been so easy and if this issue won't go away, it's because people in town still don't have any tangible assurance from council that things will be different in the future. Instead, we get childish attacks on the AGLG in lieu of a substantive statement about the report itself! I feel my bile rising once more...
     
    That said, we're now close enough to election season to not have to worry about reforming the current council, but can look toward hopefully electing a new council that is capable of doing better in these areas, whether or not it ends up containing any members of the current one. I hope some of you will run again--I certainly don't blame individuals for a culture and dynamic that becomes highly dysfunctional and have always respected your efforts in such a thankless job. That said, I would need to see more communication and openness before considering voting for any of you.
     

    Since this is intended to be a public discussion, I will post Kathy's and my replies to the Telegraph along with Jill's, if I receive her permission later in the day. I hope more of you will take advantage of this opportunity to discuss this issue with your constituents, especially if you plan on running again in November.

  • OPEN LETTER: The City's 'trash talkin' swagger' in the face of AGLG report is shameful   51 weeks 2 days ago

    NOTE: We will post any replies we get from councillors to the email thread initiated by Andrew Bennett. I will also post my own reply to that thread in the interests of openness and completeness.--ed.

    Hi Andrew-

    Thanks for your input. I agree with much of what you have to say. I do want to make the point that Council did have a discussion about this press release in a meeting. While the mayor (perhaps with the help of staff, I don't know) did craft the final piece, it did represent the bulk of the discussion. My contribution was to say that by making our focus on the weaknesses some of Council perceived in the AGLG's process it would be viewed as an attempt to deflect and distract from the real issues brought up in the report. From the response I've heard in the community, this is exactly what happened. Addressing the real issues in the report should be our priority. The mayor's comment was that those issues are addressed in our Action Plan. While this is true, the focus of the press release should have been to reassure the citizens of the steps we are taking to rectify the problems; not all of whom will read the Action Plan.

    I was ok with offering the suggestion that we be given the opportunity to provide feedback to the AGLG but that was the extent of it. We did not have a draft to work from, it was a discussion and the general consensus seemed to support the mayor's view. I understood that the final draft would not go overboard criticizing the AGLG. When the final version came out I did not comment because it was late (past the deadline for comments by time I checked my email) and quite frankly, I gave up. I had worked very hard making the statement from Council in the report sound reasonable (the early draft was not) and Council supported the final statement. This time I let others express what was important to them. I believe that if the process was long and arduous much of the blame can be laid at the feet of the City of Rossland; it was our records and processes that are so incomplete and so disorganized. That is not the fault of the AGLG. I found the AGLG people to be professional, cordial and polite. I am not saying it was a perfect process and I am confident that if the AGLG is willing to hear some constructive comments, we can provide them with some valuable feedback.

    km

  • AGLG issues report on 'serious' issues in Rossland governance   51 weeks 2 days ago

    Well, we've come a long way...backwards. But there's no reason we can't make a new start this fall after election day. This community needs to have a serious conversation about governance and city management and we need to go a lot deeper than 8 or 9 friendly faces at a single public event where everyone pays lip service to 'communication' and other such fine watch words, as happens each election season.

    I feel the next election will be pivotal. If we get another council that can't work effectively and openly people will just give up on democracy in this town. On the other hand, if we get a council that is open-minded, mature, and humble we can do wonders in a place like this.

    None of this is to condemn any particular member of the current council or to call for a total purge of incumbents, but we do need to identify and promote traits in councillors that will lead to better governance here in the Mountain Kingdom. And that will be the nature of the conversation the Telegraph hopes to start in the very near future.--ed.